Dust Your Ducts
To get the most out of your furnace this winter, a clean duct is a must.
Keeping the furnace room and area clean and free of dust will add years to your furnace's life and lower your heating bills, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Duct cleaning is not a do-it-yourself project. The cleaning equipment is expensive and difficult to use, but basically it is a large truck-mounted vacuum cleaner that's attached to the duct system near the furnace.
Long lengths of air hose with special 360-degree high velocity nozzles are then connected to an air compressor and snaked through the entire duct system to dislodge debris that has accumulated in the ductwork.
The HEPA-AIRE power vacuum sucks up the debris into the vacuum's filtration system that is so efficient that it captures contaminants 1/300th the diameter of a human hair.
It takes anywhere from six to eight hours for a thorough cleaning, and that's very important, said Mike Protasiewicz, co-owner of Custom Engineering Inc.
The Linwood-based heating and cooling company services residential and commercial ventilation systems. It was established in 1984.
If somebody's in and out of a home in, say, three hours, they are not doing a proper job, Protasiewicz said.
The vacuum returns the filtered hospital grade air to your home quietly, ridding your ducts of dust, dirt, pollen, animal dander and other contaminants that act as a breeding ground for mold spores, bacteria, fungus and mildew.
People spend 60 percent to 90 percent of their time indoors, according to the American Lung Association.
And 50 percent of all illnesses are either caused by, or aggravated by, polluted indoor air, according to the American College of Allergists. But when the air comes out of the HEPA machine, it's 99.97 percent free of dirt and germs, Protasiewicz said.
HEPA is an acronym for High Energy Particulate Air. The first HEPA filters were developed in the 1940s as part of a classified, federal government project, to filter radioactive contaminants.
In addition to making the air you breath cleaner, clean ducts make your furnace more efficient, which translates to lower heating bills.
Protasiewicz said in an average house, the HEPA-AIRE power vacuum removes a bushel of dirt, dust, debris and mold from the ductwork.
Clean ducts allow the air flow to be a lot smoother. There's no restrictions in the ductwork and so there is less strain on the blower motor of the furnace, Protasiewicz said.
A conventional duct system consists of a supply system of ducts to carry heated or cooled air from the furnace or air conditioner, respectively, to various parts of the home or building.
A return duct system brings fresh air back to the air handler to be heated or cooled again. During the supply and return of air, airborne contaminants can collect in the ductwork.
Protasiewicz recommends duct cleaning every five years. He said the cost depends on the type of ductwork you have, with hard-to-reach places like the attic or a finished basement, costing more to clean.
We've picked up pennies, cassette tapes, tennis balls you name it. If it can get through the ductwork, our vacuum can pick it up, Protasiewicz said
The only thing we haven't found is money yet, he joked.
By Frank C. Lee
Bay City Times Writer